I’m fortunate to have parents who enthusiastically support my endeavors, whether they are athletic, scholastic, or professional. Since the latter is the only one that pays (at least for me!) the other two have required time, energy, and the not so trifling thing called money. Being that I am thirty-three years old, this means my parents have funded more than 64% of my “endeavors” (let’s call 21 the Mendoza line for cutting off the parental financial umbilical cord). Thankfully for them, I now pay for my toys and sports fees!
I bring this up because my parents came to town to help celebrate my wife’s birthday and to cheer us on at our most recent race. With our race falling on a Sunday and Samantha’s birthday occurring on a Friday we were able to eat two awesome dinners to fuel up. This also meant that I had to restrain myself from gorging on my Mother’s homemade cheesecake and berry sauce!
The morning of the race, Samantha and I headed out to Bonelli Park in San Dimas early to help our teammates setup the tent and get organized, leaving my parents to arrive later. About 15 minutes before the race my parents showed up and all of a sudden I realize I need to warmup! Not ideal time-wise, but I got a quick warmup in and returned to our team tent next to the starting line only to see my class already queued up and ready to go. Quick mental check and I realize I still need to take my jacket off and get my water bottle.
Frantically, I head to the tent to retrieve my water and my Mother asks me what cycling terms to use to cheer us all on. Not having the patience to explain, I told her to yell whatever encouragement came to her. She then incentivizes me with the promise of $5 for a win – just like what I got for scoring a goal when I was a kid in AYSO soccer! (I didn’t have the heart or time to inform her that due to inflation she should really promise me $20).
Race starts are a blur – it’s simply pure reaction and nerves/muscles firing. Not much thought occurs aside from “get in front before the singletrack bottleneck.” The Bonelli US CUP course doesn’t have many long tough climbs that can really separate riders but what it does have in spades are punchy (aka steep) short climbs and loose technical singletrack and turns. There’s a saying “Horses for Courses” . . . and this horse likes these types of courses.
I found myself in 2nd place and sitting behind the leader (who had won the previous race) upon entering the singletrack so I was content to let him set the pace. Sitting behind him I could sense he was forcing his way through the technical parts rather than pedaling smoothly. This encouraged me because while you can force things on lap 1, come lap 2 and 3 you better be smooth and efficient to maintain pace.
Sure enough at the beginning of lap 2 he made a mistake on a turn and the bike slid out from under him. No physical damage done, but his slip up, my lead. About 2 minutes later the three riders behind me shot up a hill and it was decision time for me. Do I match the acceleration and hope I have enough juice for the finish or do I let them go and maintain my race pace. I decided to stay within myself. These are the decisions you always second-guess post-race. Perhaps I could have shot out with the others but I didn’t. I maintained fourth place comfortably throughout the rest of lap 2 and even caught up to a teammate who started in another wave ahead of me who helped pace me on the flatter portions of the race (that’s teamwork!).
Lap 3, the final lap, and I notice I’m comfortably in 4th place and concern myself with staying smooth, limiting mistakes, and enjoying the effort. I had just received a mini-adrenalin rush seeing my dad at the finish line cheering me on and experienced that 3rd person 0.0003 second sensation of how cool it was my parents could watch! I worked with another rider from another wave to maintain the pace and came around the toughest part of the race course where a hard 90 degree turn pitches you up a gnarly 18% grade climb (the kind of steep that if hiking makes you feel like you’re leaning over your feet doing lunges uphill) and I hear my Mom yell, “Hit a home run!”
All of a sudden I forget about the climb, the burning lactic acid in my thighs, and the dusty air as I laugh out loud at the expression. Laughter being the best medicine, my Mom’s enthusiasm and cheer certainly had the intended effect, even though it literally came from left-field!
The finish line came quickly after that and I did indeed finish 4th, two minutes back of the three riders who accelerated away from me, and 1 minute ahead of fifth place. Stoked. Two races down, two 4th place finishes! But alas, no $5 . . .